Designing for TV: 101

Apr 1st, 2019


People have become used to consuming media on their mobile phones. Be it your favourite movies, news or TV shows. Everything is available on the go.

In this day and age, there are a few skeptics who predict that bigger screens would soon become irrelevant. We don’t think so. TV still holds a special place in our hearts. Watching your favorite content on a big screen is a different experience.

Being designers who adapt to various challenges, how do you design right for a TV interface?

Let’s find out.

Smooth Navigation

Several modern Navigating through a TV interface is usually difficult. This is one of the problems that designers need to get involved to find creative solutions. Unlike a mobile interface where you can swipe, pull down to refresh, long press and pinch, the options are limited in a TV interface. Your goal as designers is to reduce the number of clicks users take to perform a task. Lesser the number of clicks, the better the user experience.

You can make use of a creatively designed navigation with breadcrumbs and search to enable easier access to even deeper drilldowns of content. Search option is something that eases the user journey tremendously.

Well researched categorization

After understanding the information architecture, designers typically go ahead with categorizing the content. While conducting user research, you’ll understand how to categorize content in a way that’s relevant to the users.

There are several usual first level categories like movies, shows, news, sports and second level categories like the genres.

Using card sorting, contextual inquiry and affinity diagrams, you can accurately align the categories with user’s mental model. There’s nothing better than the satisfaction of designing categories the way users like it.

Make typing easy

With the limited input options, typing on a TV interface is excruciatingly difficult. In order to make the process easier, designers have the option of adding an intuitive autocomplete feature. Of course, this requires adequate understanding of the technology being used. A similar alternative to typing is implementing speech recognition feature. You must conduct feasibility meetings with developers to understand how these features can be incorporated.

The buttons on the remote may not facilitate typing which is not as fast as a laptop or mobile phone. This need for pace forces designers to rely on other faster alternatives like the autocomplete feature and speech recognition feature.

Related Recommendations

Users have started expecting related content next to the content that they’re currently watching. Browsing and discovery habit of users has been on the rise. So, when you enable accurate recommendations based on the content and user behavior, it can make users’ navigation much smoother. It is advised to be incorporated on at least all the important pages.

Another good practice is to enable recommendations on the search bar that can take you directly to the content rather than listing the search results. A good amount of research has to be done in order to find the right recommendations for each user.

Progressive Innovation

TV is one of the oldest UIs in the world. It has been used by people of all ages and all cultures. Everyone is used to certain features and functions like a turn-off button, mute button, previous-next buttons and volume control buttons.

Though several modern remotes don’t have all these buttons, it is important to note that these features are generally expected by users and you may consider provisioning them in the UI at least. It will definitely align with the existing mental model of users and can significantly improve the user experience. These are some of the important points to keep in mind while designing for the big screen. As an ending note, you can be confident that the king of the living room is here to stay. Just as TV is gaining traction among the younger generation, it is time for us to brush up on our skills to design for the big screen.

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